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28 October 2007

Comments

Hermes

Today, the Hellenic-Romaic dichotomy is very old news.

Research in recent decades into the intervening periods of Greek history i.e. Hellenistic, late antiquity and Paleologian renaissance, and the life of ordinary people, shows that they are not diametrically opposed and in some cases are in confluence.

Stavros

I'm not so sure it is. Sure we are not arguing about Katharevousa versus Demotic anymore but there are certainly echoes of the Hellenic-Romeic dichotomy and sometimes they have been played out on these pages by you and I. I agree they are not diametrically opposed and in fact, there is much common ground. I just think a lot of Greeks are grappling with identity issues that stem directly from this issue.

There are many modern day Greeks (this is not aimed at you or anyone in particular), in and out of Greece who have forgotten who we are as a people, where we come from, and sadly where we are going. To a great degree I attribute that to a failure to understand our history and how it has shaped us. We can't cherry pick our history. Accept the parts that we like and forget the rest.

I must admit that you have an annoying habit of focusing on the ancient Hellenes to the exclusion of the last two thousand years of Greek history.

demonax

The trend in Greece at the moment is to reject both Romoiosini and Hellenism and embrace multicultural European and North American models.

Also, I saw an excerpt from a sermon by the Bishop of Thessaloniki on TV yesterday about patriotism and Skopje, in which he made reference to Plato and Thucydides and urged everyone to read the ancient Greek authors. That there are some in the Church who do not regard everything before the arrival of the Messiah as wretched and worthless is deeply ironic, but if it is the Church which is going to stand up for Hellenism and Romoiosini in the face of those who would like us to ditch both and become like Sweden or Canada, then so be it.

However, I have to admit that it does get on my nerves whenever I see a new $100m museum opening in Greece or the obsession with the return of the Parthenon Marbles or everyone getting their knickers in twist trying to get fire-stricken ancient Olympia ready for the phoney torch ceremony for next year’s Chinese Olympics, when Greek school children are taught by underpaid, badly qualified and demotivated teachers in portakabins and unsafe buildings, with no equipment. The same applies to the Church: in the tiniest village or on the smallest island, it’s terrible to see that the most illustrious and ostentatious building is not the school – far from it – but the church.

I’ve never thought it was a question of either Hellenism or Romoiosini. Clearly, we are the carriers and purveyors of both. It’s a false dichotomy. The thing is not to become slaves to either – to the ancient Greeks or to our Byzantine tradition – and to create something new. Creating something new was the challenge we set ourselves in 1821 – if not before – and there are a lot of modern Greek accomplishments, but we’ve a lot more to do and to offer.

Hermes

Stavros, if I remember correctly I have introduced Byzantine achievements such as the Dionysios Areopagite, Strategikon, Manuel Panselinos, Michael Psellus and Neohellenic ones such as Penelope Delta and Cavafy to these forums. However, if I focus more on the Hellenic achievements before 529 AD is because they are qualitatively better and by and large provide better models than later periods. No one can deny that the period before 529 AD was more brilliant than the period between 529AD and 1453AD. Let's forget these arbitrary time periods for a moment. Although Byzantium was spasmodically brilliant the course of time has shown that ancient Hellas continues to fascinate intelligent people. However, just like if I had two sons, and one was more brilliant than the other, I would still love both of them. Likewise, Hellas and Byzantium are beautiful and must be treasured. However, lets not forget on important aspect of the dichotomy. It is unlikely that in Byzantium we could have had this open discussion. It was a closed society with limited internal dialogue. Hellas makes all this possible.

Like you say we cannot cherry pick history. Yes, I agree. History has no personality, does not forgive, does not help the poor and wretched, does not have designs on anyone or anything. Also, we should not impute our personal preferences into history i.e. Taliban George. We should simply and dispassionately study history to provide better understanding of ourselves. If that understanding does not conform to our religious beliefs or whatever then we should not reject it.

A related problem is that this false dichotomy stems from reading non-Greeks intepret our history. They are not doing anything wrong. However, they are intepreting our history through their own frameworks and emphasising and demphasising aspects which they believe are important to them. It is we who read their works and take their intepretation as being true. For example, Williamowitz is a great historian but he was intepreting Greek history so as to form the modern German character. Another example is Victor David Hanson. He is intepreting Greek history in a way that makes insane military ventures to Mesopotamia as the right thing to do. We insanely prefer them to our own due to some inferiority complex put into our heads by Western Europe i.e. why read Greek historians because they must be liars, backstabbers, cheats etc

As for identity problems, I tend to agree with demonax. Most modern Greeks have identity problems not because of some "Helleno-Romaic" dichotomy (most Greeks would have absolutely no idea what we are talking about) but because they are losing their language which stops them from reading their ancestor's writings and organic attachment to their symbols and traditions under the weight of global mass culture. In the face of this monster it would come as a relief for a modern Greek to have some interest in either at least Byzance or Hellas or Neohellas. Who cares.......as long as they do not act like Tupac Shakur or whatever his name is!!

Stavros

As usual both of you have been able to put my humble ramblings into some kind of appropriate perspective.

Hermes,

Your assessment of historical interpretation is spot on. I agree that instead of reading and studying our own history we allow others, with their own agendas, to interpret it for us.

Your response puts my annoyance to shame.

Demonax,

The Church has always been at the forefront of maintaining a Greek identity while at the same time accepting the universality of humankind. I would recommend reading Dean Kalimniou's latest post:

http://diatribe-column.blogspot.com/

If we eliminate the Orthodox faith (something the multiculturalists are working hard to achieve) we will eliminate much of the cultural underpinnings of Greek society. The Western Europeans have all but abandoned their religious faith and see where it's got them.

If Greek education is not accomplishing its stated goals it is not due to lack of funds/poor teacher pay/run down schools.
The problem is more basic than that. It is what is being taught and how it is conveyed. The whole system needs a thorough overhaul and the Church is not now or ever has been an obstacle to such reform.

I am not arguing that Greeks are taking sides or even cognizant of this Hellenic-Romeic dichotomy in our Greek identity. A great deal of this is under the surface. Most Greeks I've met however, they cannot be described as multi-culturalists. They are still quite aware of their past.

I agree that Greeks must create new solutions for new problems. Spiridon Louis helped Greeks fashion a new identity which reconciled the Hellenic and Romeic. He was a symbol of a new Greek confidence in who we were as a people. Guys like Melas, Plastiras, Metaxas, and Venizelos were the ones they gave that confidence more than just symbolic expression. I fear however, that it will take another miracle ( as Kazantzakis says) after we have once again stood at the precipice over the abyss.

Diogenes

I'd never heard of Fallmerayer, but I've had the same thought myself (that modern Greeks are not even related by race to their ancient ancestors), since Turkish influences remain so strong.

Stavros

Diogenes,

I am not a big proponent of racial theories, however, there is a body of evidence to suggest that in fact there is a great deal of racial continuity between ancient and modern Greeks.

That said, we have to admit that time of "togetherness" did a number on the Greek psyche. If you read enough history you will be amazed by some of the similarities between ancient and modern Greeks. Good and bad.

demonax

Diogenes, don’t worry about Fallmerayer. His view of ancient Greece as a perfect paradise of ‘physical beauty, intellectual brilliance, innate harmony and simplicity’ is nonsense and so his disappointment that modern Greeks don’t meet these exalted standards and therefore cannot refer to themselves as Hellenes is absurd.

Quarrelsome, egotistical, dishonest, vain, self-indulgent, fickle, capricious. Who does this remind you of, the Greek heroes of 1821, the Greek heroes at Troy as described by Homer in The Iliad or both? You get my point.


S. I don’t think the church is an obstacle to progress in Greece, but I worry about its use of resources and priorities. The church in Cyprus is thinking about setting up its own schools because it thinks standards are not high enough in state schools – actually, they’re quite good; in Greece, alternatively, the church seems far too interested in itself and has forgotten its role. Greece is developing a hedonistic, soft-core culture and the church says nothing. Not good enough. But in relation to education, you’re right, this is not just about resources, but about what is taught and the culture of education – of loving education and wanting to be educated, of loving teaching and wanting to teach.

Have you been to Mystra/Sparta? Here Romoiosini and Hellenism exist side by side and we can appreciate the brilliance of both and feel part of both.

Stavros

Demo,

I think part of the problem with the Church in Greece is that it is so tied to the State. This relationship has benefits as well as drawbacks. Sometimes the Church is less than anxious to rock the boat. Your criticism of the Church does have some merit and the Church definitely needs to be out front on social issues. Frankly, I thought all the furor over ID cards was misplaced, there are more important issues like abortion that we need to speak out against as Christians.

I am reminded of the example of the Church Fathers, towering figures such as St Gregory Palamas and Saint John Chrysostom who were not afraid to confront and criticize the Emperors of Constantinople and the nobility.

Hermes

Stavros, agreed. I believe that Christianity works best or is truer to itself as a religion and belief system when it is somewhat resistance or at least counterbalancing some of the excesses of the state apparatus or other institutions. This may have something to do with its early history. Some of its best thinking and people has come about under duress and opression.

Stavros

Hermes,

After reading your comment I was reminded of Patriarch Pavle, the Serbian Patriarch:

http://www.truthinmedia.org/TruthinMedia/Columns/clip6.html

Hermes

Yes, these are the reasons why I do not understand Evangelical Christianity that is most pronounced in the United States. Christianity, if it to be placed on the political spectrum, sits on the old Left. Christianity esnchews money and worldly goods. Christianity is very different from Judaism. Often in conflict. These people are very removed from true Apostolic Christianity. I suppose this is what happens when those barbaric northern Europeans come into contact with the subtle Meditereanean mind.

Margaret

"Christianity, if it to be placed on the political spectrum, sits on the old Left."
I agree, Hermes, but it is brave of you to say so here :).

I've found this post and the subsequent discussion really interesting. Perhaps if I lived outside "my country" I'd want to share an identity with my compatriots. As it is, I seem to want to distinguish myself from a lot of them most of the time. Sometimes I think my "British" identity reduces to smiling at references to sticky-backed plastic and washing-up bottles ... which just goes to show how historically/socially/linguistically contextual my national identity is.

Hermes

Margaret, why is it brave? It is true. Christianity is anti-estblishment, anti-wealth, anti-individuality, ant-materialism, anti-money and so on. I can understand how Americans on the Bush Right can purport to be Christians but they are usually of the Protestant branch - which is not really Christianity. I am mystified how an Orthodox or Catholic can support the Bush Right. I think their support hinges on conservative social values which the Old Left gave up when it turned into the New Left sometime around the 1960's. However, one has only to follow Bush Right policies for about a week to realise the inherent contradictions with Christianity. The situation is slightly different in continental Europe where conservative left-wing Christianity still exists.

This is a good article..

http://www.takimag.com/site/article/a_tale_of_two_normans_podhoretz_and_finklestein/

Where was that post?

Hermes

On a related matter, why are Neocon websites attacking European right of center parties because those parties are opposed to Islamic immigration? Are they really Neocon?

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2599

Margaret

Hermes,

"This post" referred to this post. That is, the post I was commenting on.

And "brave" because it is something I think that I had not been prepared to say, lest I offend. I don't think you worry about offending people, if your comments about the English on Demonax's site are anything to go by, which probably means you are not brave either (since bravery involves overcoming a fear, I think). So I take that (that is, the "brave" bit) back!

Stavros

Margaret,

Your comments are welcome and valued. Please never feel like you have to be reticent in the slightest about putting us in our place when we offend, which is probably often. As for the question of identity, you have nothing to apologize for. The English have much to be proud of and a few things to be ashamed of, just like everyone else. I've said this before, some of the best Greeks I know are people who have not an ounce of Greek blood, and yes some of them happen to be Englishmen by birth.

Loving one's identity isn't about circling the wagons and hating everyone who is not like you. It's about trying to find things about ourselves and others like us that we can be proud of, things that we can pass on to our children. On a human to human level, I don't dislike people simply because they happen to be Turks, Iranians, North Koreans, Evangelical Protestants or Democrats. I would hope that others look at me in the same way.

Greeks have a love-hate relationship with the English and I think it's all quite complicated. When Hermes rants about the Anglo-Saxons I am always reminded of Sir Patrick Leigh-Fermor:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Leigh_Fermor

http://newcriterion.com:81/archive/19/jan01/downing.htm

Hermo,

Christianity is not compatible with any particular political philosophy even though Christians themselves often do take sides. If I were to agree with your statement about Christianity's leftist orientation, then why would the political philosophy closest to it, i.e. Marxism, spend so much time trying to eradicate it? The Christian "kingdom" is not of this world and most people including Christians have a difficult time with that one.

Evangelicals support Republicans because they are more closely aligned with them on social issues. Fact is that neither American political party is monolithic in nature, with everyone possessing the same positions across the board. I don't think most Evangelicals will vote for Giuliani for example, unless of course they are more worried about Hillary Clinton. I may not agree with an Evangelical Christians on matters of Christian dogma but we may find common ground on issues such as abortion. It's not cut and dry.

BTW, a lot of Neocons are former Democrats. Clinton bombed Serbia. It was the Republicans who were the isolationist party prior to WWII and now he paleoconservatives like Ron Paul, Buchanon and your friend Taki are very much opposed to current policies.

I haven't read you link yet but I suspect that many neocons being Jewish are squeamish about some of the European Rightists given their anti-Semitic past. Personally I think Europeans and Americans need to come together on a great number of fronts.

Margaret

Stavros, in the car on the way back yesterday Lola B asked us to explain to her the terms "left" and "right" wing. Trying to explain fairly two very different political persuasions in language a child can relate to is a challenge, but we found our discussion ranging widely over the industrial revolution, workers' rights, unions, immigration, health care, education, defence. But summing them up, it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that one view asked "What's in it for me and my family?" and the other extended a helping hand to those less fortunate without a hint of patronage. Partiality and Equality, if you like. Christians have to take (political) sides - they have to live in the world, not eschew it. Simply because Marxists do not approve of Christianity does not, however, mean that Christ would not have had a "leftist" political orientation. There is no logical progression in your argument.

I often wish Christ had been married with children and had left us with more of an idea how to reconcile our natural partiality for our families with the call of equality. A tradition of unmarried clergy and saints does not help much either. I wrestle with this a lot. I cannot even comfort myself with all the good works I do without pay and in the name of "equality", when I know that it is my husband's good income that probably facilitates my freedom to do those good works.

Stavros

Margaret,

I am not suggesting that Christians should ignore or withdraw from what is happening around them. In fact I have always advocated the importance of not just doing good works but also confronting evil even if it means having to fight it.

Nor am I saying that Christians be apolitical. I can't fault Evangelicals or other Christians for taking an active role in politics as long as they are guided by their Christian beliefs. When the Church itself starts getting politically involved that is more problematic. It opens the Church up to influence by politicians. Although the Church can foster reflection on key issues, it shouldn't tell us how to vote or align itself with any particular party.

I don't think Christ was very political, let alone sided with any political group (there were many at the time), especially Marxists if they had been around. Christ was teaching us how to live our lives. If that gives you a sense of direction when you pick a candidate to vote for, all the better. My point was that Marxists or Nazis or Socialists or fill in the blank all promise a better life but seldom deliver. That's because it's really all about power isn't it? Christ was not as focused on the here and now as he was in preparing us for eternity.

He may not have had children or a wife but He certainly had a family, and if one reads the Bible we can see clearly they were like all families, sinful and dysfunctional to a degree. They needed God's help just like the rest of us. The challenge is to love God and others as much as we love our own families, to expand our family if you will.

I don't think we need to be guilty for God's bounty that we enjoy. Being well off is not a sin, what is sinful is not sharing that bounty with others. It sounds to me that you are doing just that.

Hope I don't sound preachy, just repeating things I have had the benefit of hearing from others who are much further up the ladder than I am(I'm barely holding on).


Hermes

Stavros, I think your allusion to Marxist resistance to Christianity is false. Margaret (despite being Anglo-Saxon) is right on this one. Hitler was fundamentally opposed to Christianity so does that mean all right wing people cannot be Christians? There is a huge gulf between the Left and radical Left like Marxism just like there is a huge gulf between traditional conservatives and Giovanni Gentile.

I quite like Ron Paul. To a lesser extent Pat Buchanon.

Many European conservative parties and movements are not anti-Semitic at all. It is the pro-Israel fanatics in the Neocons who cannot distinguish between a European conservative and the ideology of Hitler and pre WWII Romanian and Hungarian Fascists.

Lastly, no one said to be guilty about "God's bounty" but equating the implicit love of wealth with Jesus's message is absurd and this is what some Protestant branches attempt to do.

Stavros

Hermes,

In Latin America many Catholic priests were also Marxists. I daresay there were a few Nazis that went to Church regularly. That doesn't negate the fact that these political philosophies are opposed to Christianity because it is incompatible with their goals.
Marx viewed all religions, including Christianity, as illusions.

Despite efforts to reconcile Christianity with Marxism, atheism is a basic premise of the Marxist system of thought. Marx himself said that "man makes religion; religion does not make man," and concluded that religion is the "opium of the people," providing an illusion of happiness without true happiness. The few remaining Marxists seem to be found mostly in Western institutions of higher learning.

Marxism is a materialistic worldview; the true Marxist believes that the material world is the ultimate reality, that there is no God beyond the forces of history and nature.

Neither side of the spectrum has a lock on Christians. Actually I don't like labels although now then I make the mistake of using them myself. Most ordinary people are somewhere in the middle.

Lastly, it's not about how much money you have it's how you live your life and what you do with the money. "Focusing" on possessions and wealth is always an impediment and unhealthy. It seems to me we are both saying the same thing.

Margaret

Stavros,

I would have liked to write a longer reply to your reply to my comment on your post ... but it's half term. I returned to a book which I have read and re-read over the last twenty years - by John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today. I think you may find his "evangelical" label off-putting but doubt that the label means quite the same thing on different sides of the Atlantic, especially in the context of an essentially conservative Anglican church. The chapter (in my 1984 edition) on political involvement and social action is very interesting particularly because it includes a historical account of the "reversal" that (evangelical) American Christians made from left to right prior to the 1960s. I knew nothing about that, but had always wondered.

I agree wholeheartedly with almost all of what you say, but disagree on this : "Christ was not as focused on the here and now as he was in preparing us for eternity". I think Christ was very much focused on how we should live during our life on earth, and that social action is part of the role he intended for his followers. I think you believe that too, as it happens, since the rest of your comment says much that.

John Stott reviews five reasons for the left to right shift, the fifth being the spread of Christianity among middle-class people "who tended to dilute it by identifying it with their own culture". Sociological research carried out in the late 1960s on the shift was scathing: "The general picture that emerges from the results presented ... is that those who place a high value on salvation (emphasised) are conservative, anxious to maintain the status quo, and unsympathetic or indifferent to the plight of the black and the poor ... Considered all together, the data suggest a portrait of a religious-minded as a person having a self-centred preoccupation with saving his own soul, an other-worldly orientation, coupled with an indifference toward or even a tacit endorsement of a social system that would perpetuate social inequality and injustice."

I've met a few like that, and guess it could easily creep up on any of us.

If you've come across books similar to John Stott's that you can recommend, I would love to know.

demonax

S. As well as abortion in Greece – the numbers of which are appalling – being a moral and politico-demographic issue, there is also the question of women’s health; and I can never understand why – given how bolshie Greek women are – there is not much of a feminist movement in Greece which is banging on about this and other issues. I know you and I are not really qualified to deliberate on the absence of a robust feminist movement in Greece; but I think the marginalisation and subordination of women promoted in and by the church is a factor.

Also, have you ever read Kazantzakis’ The Fratricides – set in Epiros during the civil war, about, if I remember rightly, a priest trying to fulfill his Christian mission by reconciling left and right?

Also Makarios was a self-proclaimed socialist – one of the reasons the US wanted to bring him down – ‘Castro in a cassock’, Cyprus as a ‘Mediterranean Cuba’ and all that.

Here’s what Makarios said to Oriana Fallaci in a 1974 interview: ‘If you're referring to Swedish socialism, not Soviet socialism, I can say I really have nothing against socialism. Among all social systems, it's the closest to Christianity, to a certain Christianity, or at least to what Christian teaching should be. Christianity doesn't favor any social system – it recognizes that any social system, from the capitalist one to the communist, can contain something good. But if I had to choose the best system, or the most Christian system, I'd choose socialism. I said socialism, not communism. And let me add that, in my opinion, the future belongs to socialism. It will end by prevailing, through a kind of osmosis between the communist countries and the capitalist ones. Spiritually it's already happening. The socialist, that is, egalitarian, spirit is permeating all human relationships. Today equality is an almost spontaneous feeling.’

http://www.cyprus-conflict.net/makarios%20-%20interview%20with%20fallaci.htm

Hermes

Anyway, who cares about Christianity? I live by the values of Homer.

Margaret

... Simpson, Hermes. Has to be.

Stavros

Hermes,

We noticed.

Hermes

Greek values:

Aristocratic
Achilles
pride of being
honor
forthrightness
loyalty
courage
wit
courtesy
propriety
magnanimity
justice
foresight
moderation
love
grace
subjective

Christian:

Plebeian
Peasant
St. Francis
pride of service
duty
candor
solidarity
fortitude
jocularity
reverence
humility
benevolence
fairness
frugality
charity
dignity
objective

One has to decide between the emaciated poor, wretched and barefoot Jesus talking bad Greek (or Aramaic) or the beautiful, courageous, strong and athletic Achilles.

Stavros

Margaret,

Stott's book sounds interesting, I'll try to get it because I would be interested to read his take on the issue. I am not sure I agree with his thesis about the shift from Left to Right. In my view, this shift took place because of issues such as abortion, the creation of a welfare state with out of control government spending, and affirmative action.

Conservative Christians are not less socially committed than their more liberal counterparts. They are however, not likely to advocate solutions which emphasize welfare over work for example, funding government social programs that are ineffective, establishing artificial inequalities to right past wrongs, etc

Good works are obviously an essential part of who we are as Christians. Good works however, by themselves, are not sufficient.

I feel totally unqualified to expound on this given my numerous shortcomings so I will refer you to Christians that know what they are talking about:

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/mark_true.aspx

Sometime ago in a discussion I had about early Christianity with Hermes I came across the following information which I found to be fascinating. It seems that the rise of Christianity was in large part due to the charitable works of the early Christians in a society that lacked a social safety net.

http://www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/riseofchristianity.html
http://www.christian-thinktank.com/urbxctt.html

Hope this helps.

Stavros

Hermes,

I think you have pride mixed up with arrogance, forthrightness with rudeness,wit with sarcasm, foresight with hindsight.

Perhaps you should try borrowing from the second list, start with a dose of humility.

Stavros

Demo,

Yes, abortion is a major moral and health problem. It also a huge demographic problem that will decide the fate of the Greek people.It is akin to genocide.

I don't agree that the Church marginalizes women. Women take an active part in the life of the Church, in fact, they are its biggest supporters and the one's who pass on the faith to their children. From my vantage point, a religious community cannot survive nor be successful unless women are active.

I'll add "The Fatricides" to my book list although right now I am trying to wade through Report to Greco. It is a real window on Kazantzakis philosophy of life based on his experiences.

My basic problem with socialism is that it depends too much on the state apparatus to solve all our problems. Government rarely does anything well, especially in Greece. People in socialist countries don't seem to be able to do anything for themselves because they are always waiting for the government to do it.

Margaret

Stavros, you challenge Demo's statement that the church marginalises women, but leave the "subordination" point unanswered. I agree that congregations are mostly female (and old), and that the no church could survive without its female adherents, but I do believe that most Christian churches try to instil in women an insidious, creeping, subordination. It manifests itself in women who are long-suffering, who believe (wrongly, I think) that love should be unconditional and that, if they are truly Christian, they will endure no matter what abuse. Of course, not all churches are the same, but I think this is a prevalent, mixed up, view of what "turning the other cheek" means. I do not think it is Biblical, however, and believe that if the women is, ultimately, directed to obey her husband, then her husband's reciprocal obligation to cherish her should mean that she is never asked to do anything that is not in her very best interests, that his headship is rarely - if ever - necessary to assert in such conditions. But I probably have a strange view of the world.

demonax

Yes, Margaret; I'd go so far as to say that the church is misogynist – institutionally and ideologically. One of the reasons the Greek church doesn't speak out against abortion is because it is disdainful of issues concerning sex and reproduction – issues to do with female corporeality and sexuality. I really can't over the fact that we – the Greeks – had this ugly, repressive and fundamentally anti-hellenic system foisted on us 2,000 years ago. Bring back the old gods, I say. They were fun.

Stavros

Margaret,

I can only speak for the women I have known in my own life and community. Most do not conform to your description. Their love is unconditional, but they are neither long suffering, nor reluctant to speak their minds or put up with "abuse." Half of the Church council that governs our parish are women. They are an integral part of the life of the Church and always have been.

YOUR biblical interpretation is in fact correct. My view that marriage isn't about one person telling the other what to do, it is about mutual compromise and consensus.

Please check out the following:

http://www.stnina.org/journal/art/3.3.11

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/women.aspx

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/marriage.aspx

Stavros

Demo,

First, Hermo jerks my chain and now you. Can there be no rest for those who are laden with heavy burdens and weary?

demonax

I only meant the church was 'ugly, repressive and anti-hellenic' in its treatment of women and in its attitudes towards sexuality and reproduction and suggesting that this all ties in with the high rates of abortion in Greece. Why are there no women priests in our church? Are they not fit enough to transmit the message of Christ? Are they only fit to receive, but not to interpret or teach? It's obvious that the church is a boy's club which only tolerates the presence of women in a subordinate capacity. The ancient Greeks had priestesses, so why can't the church. Personally, I'm against it, but that's prejudice, and I think it's a good question.

If women accept their subordinate role in church, then they will do so elsewhere in society – such as in relation to reproductive rights, access to better healthcare, contraception, presentation of women in the media – Greece is becoming far too sexualised for its own good – all of which prevents women from being in command of their lives and bodies and hence too many abortions. Greek women should be going to church less and out on the streets burning their bras more – that's all I'm saying.

Stavros

Demo,

The Church is none of those things even if at times some within the Church may act that way. It seems you are advocating that the Church fall in line with those things currently in vogue. The one thing the Church must never do is to capture the spirit of the age. The job of the Church is to correct the spirit of the age. When the Church begins to reflect the spirit of the age in which it lives, it immediately loses its relevance and continuity. I think your impression that the Church does not value women is mistaken. The role of women is anything but subordinate. The have been an integral part of the Church since its inception. There are as many saintly examples of women as there are of men which attests to their impact. I really hope you read the link about Women in the Orthodox Church that I recommended because it will give you more insights that I can:

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/women.aspx

Men and women both are to blame for the objectification of women. Part of the reason for this is that when we abandon God and cannot feel his love for us we go looking for love in the all wrong places. The Greek word for it is pornea. It may be more fun but it's also more destructive because the other person becomes an object. Eros versus agapi.

As I spout off here I can't help but think about the irony of it all since I am guilty of such thinking and therefore a poor choice to wax eloquent about the problem.

Nevertheless, God loves us enough to give each of us the power to make our own choices even when those choices disappoint him.

Hermes

This is a goood article from a European electronic magazaine on the commodification of sex and women:

http://www.signandsight.com/features/1586.html

I believe there should be less sex in public and commodification of the female body but not because it is disrespectful to women but because it unleashes the power of Eros without counterbalancing forces. Women should be subordinate because they are more emotional and driven by subtarrenean forces which makes them a danger to civilisation and culture. This is why they were so attracted to Dionysus.

And this is a good article by the 2nd best Jewish woman on the planet (Martha Nassbaum being the 1st) on the Greek religion. Obviously, she overemphasises "multiculturalism" because she is Jewish and American:

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-oe-lefkowitz23oct23,1,4653462.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=1&cset=true

Margaret

Stavros,

Thank you for taking the time (and it must take time!) to respond to all our comments. What big subjects too. I've read the articles you link to. I liked the first one a great deal (probably because I agree with every word), but didn't really understand the second (he seems to shy away from actually saying or commiting himself to anything), and the third one would put any person who is not yet married off marriage altogether - for the writer says the primary role of marriage is a path of pain ... and the description of women's character sounds very much like Hermes's view ... which does not make Hermes right and which also reminds me why I have a problem with unmarried priests advising married people on their marriages.

I'm not surprised by what you say about your American Greek Orthodox church (and it's heartening to read), but doesn't that show how even churches are culturally defined? I'm sure there are similar churches in Greece, but I suspect they are much more difficult to find.

Couple of other small points. Agapi is not a substitute for Eros. Eros has its place but is a force to be reckoned with. Without Eros there is, I think, no desire. It is also biblical - The Song of Solomon, for example.

And I find myself agreeing with you, Demonax, but am intrigued to know what has led you to have such developed views in this regard (I'm not asking you to tell me).

Hermes, if you ever want to have a happy marriage, ditch your stupid views. I think you must have learnt as a child that the only way to get (negative) attention was to shock/annoy people. It isn't the only way, though it often works.

Hermes

Margaret, rather than dismiss another person's views as "stupid", can you please give me reasons why women should not be subordinate to men?

demonax

S. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I was not at all convinced by the article you linked to, and was struck by these two sentences:

‘It is a fact that we received some traditions from the Jews, and that the Jewish priesthood was male.’

What traditions is he talking about? He’s talking about those traditions which loathe human sexuality and the human form and which have come to permeate not only Christianity but also Islam – even more robustly misogynistic than Christianity – and represent a radical rejection of Hellenism.

‘Shame, hence, to each of us who proclaims either the man or the woman superior, or pretends to know the proper role and nature of each. This is arrogance, immoderation, intellectual pomposity, and the usurpation of judgments which only God can make.’

This is a cop out and a dangerous one at that, since it suggests that only God is capable of proper or profound knowledge, which means we as humans might just as well sit with our arms folded and not bother thinking, doing or trying to figure out how everything works and how life can be improved because in the end it's all a great big mystery. Again, this is fundamentally anti-Hellenic.

Hermo; I liked both articles you linked. I agree with most of what the Dutch guy says on sexuality and commodification and thought Lefkowitz’s piece was superb.

Margaret; the evidence overwhelming suggests that Christianity and islam are deeply misogynistic – and that they developed this misogyny from Hebraism and not from Hellenism – so I’m not doing much more than going with the evidence. Generally, I’m a feminist – although I have a significant problem with female authority and totally reject women’s involvement in football – as players, spectators, supporters or anything. Football is a man’s game, end of story, and I'm not interested in contrary opinions.

Stavros

All,

Sometimes blogging feels like my part-time job. All in all this thread has been well worth it and quite stimulating intellectually. I have been tempted more than once to abandon MGO due to my competing responsibilities but shy away when I realize that I won't have a way to express myself and get valuable feedback from my faraway friends. Sometimes in our everyday lives we don't always get the opportunity to discuss the really important subjects because we get bogged down with the mundane.

I don't think any of us have changed anyone's mind or forced them to change their position on anything. Each one of you has given me something to think about.

Margaret,

As always you are the gentle voice of reason, why you put up with the three of us, I will never know. You must be the type of person that looks after strays.

I am not discounting the importance or need for Eros, only lamenting the fact that it is often substituted for agapi.

Demo,

I think you may take a little different view of the human form when and if you ever have a teenage daughter who wants to wear a low cut blouse to school. Perhaps that may be your long hidden Hebraic part rearing its ugly head. Western culture of which you are the product is whether you and Hermo like it or not a blending of Hebraism and Hellenism. All of us are products of that culture. Hellenism, no matter how idealized in your mind it may become, does not exist in a vacuum.

God gives us free will and a set of rules to live by. We certainly don't have to abide by them.

A feminist? So your saying football is too sacred to be defiled by women's participation. An Hebraic concept if I ever heard one. Perhaps you are worried that some little girl might run circles around you in the arena?

Hermes,

All bachelors have a tendency to say things that they later regret when they are married.

Hermes

Demonax, it is coming into summer here and the beaches are beckoning; however, if there is one thing I am envious of you (apart from your prose) is your proximity to good live football. Although I am not a fan of the English game (like everything that wretched race does it is ungraceful, dour, industrious) it is still better than the donkeys running around a park which they try to pass off as football over here. I hope you barrack for the Arse. I have to resign myself to watching highlights packages of the Serie A (Roma beat Lazio last weekend) and La Liga and occasionally Olympiakos. And fortunately, there is well educated Italian and Greek footballing communities out here (I refuse to discuss football with women and Anglo-Australians). It's like talking about Strauss's Electra with a builder's labourour.

Margaret

Demonax, you can gladly have football. It leaves me completely cold, though my husband is a devoted season ticket holder and my daughter a neat goal scorer. I lack the necessary mirror neurons, never having played the game, and just cannot see the point of playing only vicariously. I content myself with the joy on my husband's face when his team has won, and with preparing a tasty post-match tea.

Hermes, I won't give you any reasons. Men and women just are equal. It's a given, like the sun rising every morning or snow being white. And have you truly contemplated the alternative. Having subdued the woman, what further use have you for her? Relationships that are about power (which it would have to be if one was subordinate to the other) are doomed to be a bed of misery. Good luck if that is the bed you have chosen.

Stavros, you are too kind. I enjoy this too, and it makes me think a lot, and I don't always arrive back at exactly the same position I started from...

Hermes

Stavros, about the subordination of women to men, I will stick to my guns. You can trot out neoliberal gibberish all day and night but women should be under the control of men. Think about all the women you have met in your life? Do they think in a manner befitting a leader? (obviously we are talking about a bell curve here; and it is entirely possible that there are a few women out there you are better than most men). A good leader has the ability to change from abstract to contextual thinking frameworks to make decisions. Most women are incapable of this - they are too emotional and subjective. Remember it was through women that plebeian Christianity snuck its way into Roman society via magic, superstition and infantile salvational claims. However, women are good carers. Therefore, we should introduce quotas on the number of women allowed to become judges, CEOs, politicians etc.

There are other areas where we have gone too far. For example, for every 100 women I meet 80 have no idea of how politics works whilst 50 men do not. Although I do not claim to be an expert in constitutional law I do not believe women should be given the same voting rights as men unless they pass a knowledge test. Otherwise, we have a large proportion of people with the same decision making power as a smaller proportion but who do not know what they are talking about. Invariably, we end up with poor decisions being made.

Coincidentally, this is from a French website I read today about the French Minister of Justice Rachida Dati:

"Yes, the female is much more dangerous. She does not have the ability to recognize how nations were built and how culture must be maintained. Rachida, like so many feminists - Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice, for example, believes that society can be improved by allowing women to take over. In fact society deteriorates rapidly when women take over.

In the USA women never really sought equality, although they claimed to. What they sought was supremacy, and domination over men. This has destoyed the family, the school and the cultural level here as there."

About marriage and my views. Again, you have it wrong. My views will hardly be discussed in my marriage. Weighty matters will be discussed with mostly male friends so there will be little conflict.

demonax

Hermo, I’ve got to stick up for English football – at club level anyway, the national team is unwatchable – and say how good it is. It’s true the English league is not as technical as the Italian league or as graceful as the Spanish league – though this has changed recently with the influx into the English game of foreign players and coaches – but I love its blood and thunder, no quarter asked for, no quarter given, die on the pitch qualities. It’s how I tend to play the game. I’m allright technically and I’ve got an athletic physique – I’m tall and thin – but my main attributes are fearlessness, will to win and mental strength.

Also, although Arsenal is my local club and I used to go to Highbury when I was a kid, I’ve always been a Liverpool supporter.
Stavros, if anyone tried to run rings around me – little boy, little girl, Pele, Maradona, George Best – I’d break their legs. Women shouldn’t play football because they can’t play football. What they play is not football but a parody of football, and I’m against it.

Hermes

It may sounds trite but football is really a metaphor for politics and life in general. I think Camus said that nearly everything he learnt he learnt on the football pitch (Camus played keeper).

"After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA."

And this is coming from one of the best literary minds of the 20th century.

Also, Camus was once asked by his friend Charles Poncet which he preferred, football or the theatre - Camus is said to have replied 'Football, without hesitation.'

Although I was always a bit rough on the pitch I can separate my own playing style to the ideal and the English game is definitely not ideal despite some small improvements. Likwise, with Americans, although I am sure one day they will win the World Cup, their culture is not suited to football and should concentrate more on lacrosse or softball. Football is a romantic and poetic game that requires strategy. I am sure Geothe or Baudelaire or Foscolos would have been football lovers.

Stavros

Demo,

Sounds like you might be better suited for American football or rugby where breaking legs, heads and other parts of the human anatomy is officially tolerated. I agree that there are some activities that both men and women might participate in with only members of their particular sex. For example, I'm very much against women being placed in front-line combat units. It's terrible for unit cohesion which is a key component of success in war.

It sounds to me that any fellow feminist not to mention Camus, would be aghast at your last statement. Men and women are different, lets recognize and celebrate those differences. Feminists do not recognize differences.

Although I enjoy soccer, I prefer baseball. Maybe it's because I grew up playing stickball on the streets of New York. All you needed was a bunch of willing kids, a sawed off broom handle and a rubber ball that cost a quarter. Baseball reminds me a little of war. It consists of long periods of boredom punctuated by episodes of terrifying exhiliration.

Hermes,

I will promise not to trot out any neoliberal gibberish if you promise not to throw out all your sketchy anecdotal evidence or revisionist Christian history.

The ability to discuss politics is not based on gender, it is based on how well informed a person is about the subject.

Leadership is seldom an inherited trait, it is acquired through experience. If a woman is given opportunities to learn to be a leader she can be just as good at it as her male counterpart.

Lastly, a little advice. Try not to be so rigid in your thinking. Marriage is about give and take. It is not about domination of the other partner. Unequal relationships in which respect is absent are a recipe for failure. Look around you at all the failed marriages. Most of these failures stem from one partner trying to make the other partner fit into some preconceived notion of what they want them to be.

Margaret

"Men and women are different, lets recognize and celebrate those differences. Feminists do not recognize differences."

Oooh. I agree with the first sentence, but not with the second. One of many postcards pinned above my computer is a quote which reads "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat" ...

If the extreme male brain is very good at schematizing and the extreme female brain is very good at emphathy, most brains are somewhere along the continuum between the two and sometimes there is little or no correlation with the outward apparent gender. Whether from birth or as a result of a good education, some women have "male" brains whilst some men have "female" brains. Some of each gender have brains that are sufficiently flexible or well trained or stretched to enable them to do both male and female thinking/feeling or at least a very good approximation. I know women who excel in traditionally male fields, and men who are (I am sure) excellent in fields seen more traditionally as female. I imagine we can all situate ourselves somewhere along the continuum. The most that can be said is that some women and some men will be better at some tasks than some women and some men and that unless you test them all you will not know which the some men and some women are. So it makes sense to let everyone have a fair crack at everything and let the excellence shine through. I think. And I'm still thinking about the front-line ... as I am about why Hermes, who is so clearly intelligent but probably has a pretty extreme male brain, should have such a blind spot about women. I assume your prejudice performs some instrumental, defensive purpose. I do not take it personally, however, since I am secure in my conviction that you are wrong :).

If you haven't already come across this book (Professor Simon Baron Cohen, The Essential Difference), you might find it interesting.

Stavros

Margaret,

To be sure there are feminists like Carol Gilligan that espouse the differences between men and women. I think the movement as a whole is so focused on equality that it is willing to ignore the differences.

The efforts to empower women have had a negative effect on young boys:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F05EFD8123DF932A05754C0A9669C8B63

Hermes

Margaret, please take note of what I wrote:

"obviously we are talking about a bell curve here; and it is entirely possible that there are a few women out there you are better than most men".

Meaning that there may be some women who are better firefighters than men or better policemen than men or better seargents than men - but generally they do not have the mental and physicial characteristics that make them suitable for these occupations.

You seem to have a problem in separating what ought to be, to what is. I would love for Greeks to rule the earth and use Anglo-Saxons to clean our laundry but the reality is that we are one of many nations with a great history. Let's not get confused. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.

Margaret

Boys, or should I say Men ...

I'm outnumbered. I didn't think I was saying anything particularly contentious and, as you probably know by now, I am not a great fan of stereotypes. I think, with all due respect to you, Stavros, that it is a nonsense to say that boys have been harmed by feminists. What? ALL boys have been harmed by ALL feminists? Even the article you linked to seems to say that the author blames (emotionally)absent fathers as much as anything.

I think it is incredibly difficult to be a (a boy who grows up to be a) man, but it is not any easier being a (girl growing up to be a) woman. We don't have to compete for who has the most difficult role, do we? As parents we just do the best we can, and hope to set the best example we can of our respective gender roles. I know that I have chosen to represent in many ways a very traditional role model, especially as a mother, and my daughters may well kick against it.

Single sex schools are still popular here, particularly in the private sector, though funnily enough a lot of the boys schools have fallen over themselves to admit girls as they allegedly have a civilising influence (Eton is an exception), while girls schools resolutely remain single sex. My daughters attend a school which promises them better results than if they were educated alongside boys, and the freedom to be scientists if they want. For every person who argues in favour of gendered education, there is another who will tell you that it will (to quote an English poet) f**k you up. What's to be done?

I taught hundreds of young men at University and meet lots of wonderful boys who look as if they are doing a grand job of growing up in this new world order. I hope you aren't too worried...

Hermes, you are, in a way, right. I do need to believe that men and women are equal, but different whatever the truth is or should be: I cannot bear the idea of believing the contrary and will leave that to you. But having just been to watch a towering film about a marvellous red-headed Anglo-Saxon woman, Elizabeth I, I feel reinvigorated, especially by two manly hours of Clive Owen. You, however, will - I guarantee - hate it.

Stavros

Margaret,

Boys will be boys.

I don't want you to think I am against ALL feminists, after all, I respect you and Demo and I value your opinions.

I think it is important however, to look at the movement as a whole. Although it has accomplished a great deal of good, it has also done, in my opinion, some long lasting probably irreparable harm.

I wish you wouldn't dismiss out of hand this whole issue of the feminization of our societies. It is real and it has consequences. Sommers is not trying to say it is harder to be a boy than a girl. She is saying that schools and society in general, do not allow boys to be boys. I realize that you think girls exert a "civilizing" influence on us. Maybe we boys would prefer to remain "uncivilized." You know, get cigar ashes on the rug, put our feet up on the coffee table, and spend time with the other boys just as I'm sure you enjoy doing the same with your girlfriends (well maybe not the first two on my list).


Margaret

Oh dear. And I think I have not expressed myself very clearly at all if that is how you have understood me. I don't think it is a good thing that the boys schools have admitted girls - I think it's a joke that the boys' schools think they need girls to civilise them. I love men being men, doing manly things, and I love the pleasure it brings them. Football matches, climbing mountains, eating the same food for a week, poking the bonfire, cutting down every tree in sight, never changing the sheets, beer in the bath, cigars, reading books I'd never want to open. I'm all for it. Why would I want men to feel less free to be men than I would like to be free to be a woman, with all the complexities, contradictions and ambiguities that both involve? I am no angry militant feminist, far from it, it's only that I resist the notion that I or any other woman has to be anything in particular simply because I am a woman. Which is not to say that I feel the same when it comes to being a mother - then I am a lot less liberal. Nor is to fail to recognise that there are many things that many men can do far better than I could ever hope to do because of my physical size and because of the way my brain functions.

Nor do I dismiss any damage that feminisation might have caused: I can think of a few relationships I know where the male experiences the female as a threat to his identity with uncomfortable results. You, and your sons, are much better placed than me to know how it is, this feminisation. And perhaps it is different in the UK than in the US, and my own personal experience is not typical.

I often think that the increasing tendency to objectify young women especially and force upon them an unachieveable Barbie-in-high-heels image, is a reaction from men to a perceived usurping of their role as breadwinner. When it becomes about power, we're all losers.

Stavros

Margaret,

You have reaffirmed my confidence in you. I think we are really pretty close in our positions. I failed to read your comment as carefully as I should have.

Hermes

http://www.takimag.com/site/article/the_ron_paul_revolution/

There are still great people in the United States!

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